Renovation of theatre is ‘needed’ 

South Downe Musical Society perform Jesus Christ Superstar at Ferneham Hall. Picture: Neil Clifton
South Downe Musical Society perform Jesus Christ Superstar at Ferneham Hall. Picture: Neil Clifton
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A MULTI-MILLION pound revamp of an arts facility is ‘desperately needed’ say councillors.

Ferneham Hall in Fareham is set to close in 2019 for two years for a transformation into a communal arts space after plans were approved by Fareham Borough Council.

Executive member for Leisure and Councillor Sue Bell said: ‘This is a great project and income from the community can support the running costs.’

The council has set up a working group with Cllr Bell as chairman to steer the project which includes two auditoriums, a dance studio and community rooms.

A public consultation and theatre use survey will take place as well as council officers researching potential new names for the venue which the community will be able to identify their preferred choice.

Councillor Connie Hockley said: ‘I am so excited for this and it is desperately needed and long overdue.

‘Ferneham Hall is the envy of other councils and we are so lucky to have such a great big space that we own and the community can use.

‘My only concern is the reduction in seats so I wonder if the working group could look at seats that collapse into the wall.’

South Downe Musical Society is one of many groups that use Ferneham Hall regularly to stage their productions throughout the year.

Chair Nick Williams said: ‘I have to say, I'm looking forward to the proposed changes at Ferneham Hall. I've been using the theatre space for the last 20 years and it hasn't really had any noticeable refreshment of the facilities or decor. 

‘We tend to take for granted this sort of facility available to us on our doorstep and it's not until it's gone that we realise how lucky we are. 

‘If the theatre space was to disappear entirely, you're hard pressed to find somewhere that can support our sort of society without having to travel significantly further afield or pay fees that are not affordable.’

The group think the works should be staged to reduce impact on the community.

Nick added: ‘Of course, in the interim, it will generate a little more work for us to find somewhere suitable if it were to close entirely. However, I think it's a welcome sacrifice if it gets the investment it needs and becomes a modern destination of theatre.’